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Senate Quartet Urges Reid To Pass Public Plan Via Reconciliation

Sam Stein and Ryan Grim

Four senators have signed a letter
urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to pass a public
option for insurance coverage through the use of reconciliation.

The list of signatories includes both usual and somewhat unusual
suspects, from the progressive wing of the party -- Sens. Jeff Merkley
(D-Ore.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) -- to less ideological lawmakers
who find themselves in primary election contests -- Sens. Michael
Bennet (D-Col.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

"Dear Leader Reid," the letter says:

We respectfully ask that you bring for a vote before the
full Senate a public health insurance option under budget
reconciliation rules.

There are four fundamental reasons why we support this approach -
its potential for billions of dollars in cost savings; the growing need
to increase competition and lower costs for the consumer; the history
of using reconciliation for significant pieces of health care
legislation; and the continued public support for a public option.

The petition is part of a larger effort by a coalition of
progressive groups to rally Democratic lawmakers around the idea of
passing a government run health insurance option through a
parliamentary maneuver that would allow an up-or-down vote.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America and Credo -- a socially-conscious business -- have already secured the signatures
of 119 House Democratic lawmakers for the late-stage public option
push. The progressive advocacy group also has emailed
constituents asking them to push their representatives to co-sign the

The effort is an uphill one. There is little reported willingness
among Democratic leadership to reenter the public option battle. And
while using reconciliation would allow the policy to be made law by
majority vote, there is an open debate as to how strong of a public
plan can be passed this way.

"Senator Reid remains a strong supporter of the public option, but
it's always a question of where the votes are," said Reid spokesman Jim
Manley in a statement to HuffPost.

The popularity of the idea, nevertheless, remains relatively high. As the letter to Reid notes, the most recent CBS/New York Times poll shows that the public option is supported by 59 percent of respondents and opposed by just 29 percent.

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